This Sunday, June 16, 2019, our nation and most countries in the world will celebrate Father’s Day. Cards will be given. Phone calls will be made. Presents containing a necktie or a “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug will be opened. Fathers will get to choose where to eat for lunch or be given the opportunity to play a round of guilt-free golf on Sunday afternoon. While not having quite the same prominence as Mother’s Day, it’s nonetheless a sweet little holiday to remember and thank Dad.
I wish it were more. Much more.
I don’t mean that I want it to be a day where the family makes a big deal over me. Honestly, I hardly ever wear neckties and have plenty of coffee mugs. My wife is fine with me playing golf on occasion anyway. With four children, our Sunday lunch will likely be either fast food or some place with very inexpensive kid’s meals. I am looking forward to opening some homemade cards crafted with crayons and a whole lot of love. Those always make my heart smile.
I’m not advocating the holiday become more of a fuss over dads. Rather, I wish fathers would use this day each year to assess the role we have in the home and to recommit ourselves to being better. And different. Different from what society tells us we should be. Acting and leading in ways that go against the grain of the way fatherhood has been portrayed in our culture.
Here’s what I mean: there has been painted in our national mindset a picture of Dad as weak, foolish, and irrelevant. Mom is the smart one who keeps the family together and the household running smoothly. Dad is there to lift heavy objects. Mom is the one who gives good, sound advice to the children. Dad provides comic relief. Mom is the one who has the wisdom to make the right choices for the family. Dad is allowed to make minor, inconsequential decisions, as long as they are run past Mom first.
“There has been painted in our national mindset a picture of Dad as weak, foolish, and irrelevant.”
This is the caricature of virtually every father on television and movies. Consider Phil Dunphy in the sitcom Modern Family. He’s the bumbling, goofy dad who constantly has his wife rolling her eyes at his latest statement or action. He is viewed more like one of the kids, under the care and authority of Mom, rather than a partner in parenting.
Remember the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? A classic quote from that movie captures the essence of how our culture views the wisdom of fathers. The daughter wants to quit working in the family restaurant to pursue another vocation. She worries that Dad won’t allow it, and she has heard him say many times, “The father is the head of the house.” She repeats this phrase to her mother, and her mother responds: “Let me tell you something Toula; the man is the head, but the woman is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants.” In other words, “Let’s let Dad keep on thinking he’s in charge, but you and I know who is really calling the shots around here.”
The ultimate, ridiculous dad-image is Homer Simpson, a beer guzzling, lazy, low-IQ moron whose only significant accomplishment in life was somehow convincing Marge to marry him.
The last really good television father figure I remember watching was on The Brady Bunch. I get the irony of this — the actor who played Mike Brady wasn’t exactly the model Christian husband / father in his personal life. However, on the show, he was full of wisdom, he worked hard to provide for his family, and he loved and supported his wife. Mike Brady wasn’t running around on Carol, or just sitting on the couch allowing his wife to do the work of raising the kids, or constantly making ridiculous comments while Carol and Alice just rolled their eyes at his obvious stupidity.
There may be a few other outlier examples of good fathers on television or in movies, but they are few. The overwhelming majority of images being fed to current and future dads and moms paints an unhealthy picture; one where men play a mostly passive role in the family.
I wish Father’s Day would be a time for dads everywhere to recommit our lives to being and becoming good, faithful leaders in our homes. What would happen in our families and in the lives of our children if we took this day of the year, every year, to collectively recommit to our role as fathers? What if, on this day, millions of fathers signed a covenant, declaring their desire to be more than just an appendage living in the home, but willingly taking on the heavy burden of leading our families?
Perhaps the covenant could look something like this:
• I will lead by praying for wisdom each day.
I’ve had more than a dozen jobs in my lifetime. Parenting is by far the most difficult one I’ve ever encountered. The decisions made in directing and discipling my children have big consequences. Their minds and hearts are dramatically shaped by my words and actions. I very much realize that I don’t naturally possess the wisdom to effectively lead my children in the path they should go. I need help — big time. I’m very thankful for the promise in the New Testament book of James; that if we ask for wisdom, God will freely give it (James 1:5). I’m trying my best to claim that promise and make that ask every morning.
I wish fathers everywhere would lead in their homes by making this their daily prayer.
• I will lead by having my family in worship on a regular basis.
How many times do we see a mom dragging her kids to church while Dad plays eighteen or wets a hook at his favorite fishing hole? Why is leadership in the spiritual realm being assigned to Mom? Or, how often is Dad allowing the kids sports schedule to take priority over corporate worship? What kind of message does this communicate to our children about what (or Who) is really most important in life? What if Christian fathers all across our nation collectively drew a line in the sand and said, “We will not allow anything to interfere with our family being involved in worship each week.” I believe that act alone would dramatically change the fabric of our nation.
I wish fathers everywhere would lead in their homes by making weekly worship a priority.
• I will lead through pursuing purity.
At the lowest point of his life, Job remembered the promise he gave as a husband and father: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1). Job understood how leading in his family meant that he didn’t need to allow his eyes, mind, and heart to wander outside of the marriage bed.
For the past decade, entering fatherhood have been young men who hit puberty right at the time we gained unfettered access to the Internet and all the images contained within. Pornography had formerly been mildly challenging to acquire; suddenly it became difficult to avoid. Good, godly guys fell victim and became addicted to porn. Now, dads all across our nation are struggling with this issue and finding that it’s severely damaging their ability to be good fathers and husbands.
I wish fathers everywhere would lead in their homes by working hard to keep their minds and hearts pure.
• I will lead by working hard at my marriage.
I have certainly been guilty of allowing my wife to lead in this area instead of taking the initiative to ensure that we have a solid, healthy marriage. I need to do more. I want to do more. On this Father’s Day, I will commit to be the best husband I can be. And to be intentional about working hard at this thing called marriage. I recognize that not only will this commitment improve my life and marriage, but that this is one of the best gifts I can give to my children. They will feel safe and thrive knowing that Mom and Dad are okay.
I wish fathers everywhere would lead in their homes by intentionally working at their marriages.
• I will lead by working hard in my job.
This was not an issue for previous generations. In fact, while fathers may have failed in being emotionally connected with their children, they generally succeeded in providing for their families.
However, this has changed, and is going to become even more of an issue with future generations. Teens and young adults, as a whole, are lacking a strong work ethic and initiative. A student pastor recently told me that teenagers today typically have little desire to get their driver’s licenses. This was difficult for me to comprehend, remembering the 16-year-old me standing outside the DMV on my birthday, waiting for the doors to open. They have Instagram and Netflix, he said, and basically have no desire to leave the house.
I know this is a generalization, but this lack of initiative seems to be more pervasive among the coming generations. Not working and not providing for one’s family will be the source of many arguments and will create instability in the household. Being a good provider isn’t all that dads should be; however, hard work and wise financial decisions will be a great benefit to your family.
I wish fathers everywhere would lead in their homes by working hard in their jobs.
• I will lead in how I spend my time.
I love golf, but I recognize how many hours this activity can eat up in my day. I’m careful to limit how much I play. Sure, I might rather be on the golf course than sitting on the sidelines of my son’s football practice, watching him do up-downs with twenty other eight-year-olds. However, my son loves having me there, watching him practice, so he can later ask me questions like, “Hey, Dad, did you see me make that block?” Yeah, buddy, I saw you. Great job.
I have committed to my family that we will have dinner together virtually every night. We may go in a thousand different directions during the day, but we will eat together in the evenings and we will talk. No phones, no tablets, no television. I’ve committed that time to really listen to my wife and children. I want to know about the trivial events of their day as well as the joys and struggles of their hearts.
I wish fathers everywhere would lead in their homes by spending significant, quality time with their families.
Perhaps this sweet little holiday will become recommitment day for dads. It will need to begin with someone crafting a covenant for fathers. Then, maybe, men all across our country will read and commit to this covenant. Hopefully they will share with their dad friends along with a brief note of encouragement. “Hey buddy, I’m committing to this deal. You ought to read and consider as well. Happy Father’s Day!” Then, perhaps, that dad will commit and share with another friend, and another, and then it will continue to spread all across the country. What if millions of dads make this recommitment to their family during the month of June 2019? I believe it will radically change our nation.
All we need is for someone to come up with a covenant for dads everywhere to sign this Father’s Day.
Who knows? Maybe someone will.
Kevin Mills is the Lead Pastor of Northway Church in Macon, Georgia.